Let us hunt! Chasing trophy beers, it’s arguably the most annoying trend that accompanies craft beer and we see it all the time. People on social media pestering random liquor store accounts demanding that things be held for them. People lining up outside a bar creating a wait that can last hours due to some “rare” tapping. Beer is meant to be enjoyed not fought over like a mid 90’s tickle me Elmo found on Black Friday. I’m lucky enough to get my hands on these trophy beers on a pretty regular basis, and I refuse to line up for a beer or drive all over town to get gouged by some random liquor store that I would likely never wander in again.
Let’s start with limited tappings, these happen less frequently than having to deal with the grind of bottle releases. The point of these tap events usually centers around creating hype over the brewery or the bar. Some sort of tap takeover that is brewery-centric and pulls in a crowd to celebrate a single brewery, or to celebrate an event like a grand opening or an anniversary. The idea is good I guess, except what you end up getting is a long rush of people all hunting for the same thing, thus causing the dreaded line. Some of these events you get a ticket for a small pour of whatever the feature beer is, sweet right? I guess this depends on how much you are willing to wait to sample something. Personally I really don’t find tap takeovers to be worth the trouble, there’s so many people that show up that by law of averages somebody is bound to annoy me and I really don’t need that cramping my tasting experience. If I make my way into a bar and they happen to have a trophy beer on tap that becomes a great joy, but dealing with a crowd takes any joy out of the experience for me.
Now for hunting down bottles, I really have mixed feelings here. The majority of trophy beers I get my hands on are picked up from the same store in which I do the bulk of my beer shopping. I’ve gotten to the point that I really don’t hunt down stuff anymore, when something limited comes in the good fellas behind the counter set aside the max of the per customer limit for me and that’s it. This relationship works great but I have not forgotten my days of chasing bottles around from store to store with the hope of finding whatever bottle I was looking for that day. Now every liquor store has a Instagram account, Facebook account, and Twitter account for people to message them and request things to be held for them. The social media approach is one that I just don’t get, I tried it once and felt totally bizarre. Part of the reason I go to the same store all the time is because the guys who run that store are good to me. If I come in and whatever the beer of the week is happens to be out of stock, guess what I buy something else. I refuse to wander into that store and not leave without making a purchase. My buying habits have built a relationship that assures I am taken care of when special stuff hits the shelves, which also means I don’t have to drive all over town like I’m on some sort of scavenger hunt.
So we’ve touched on the process of getting your hands on these beers and the frustration that seems to pair with them oh so elegantly but how good are these beers? Is it worth the time and the effort? Is paying, at times, $15 for a single bottle of beer worth the investment? Yes and no. Most of these highly sought after beers earn their price tag and notoriety, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they justify the investment in time, money, and mental stability to enjoy. Let’s take Hopslam for example; Bell’s annual Double IPA release that tends to drive beer snoobs into a tizzy and create buzz in every liquor store worth their salt. Hopslam is a great beer, don’t get me wrong, but to me it’s no better than Dogfish Head’s 90 minute IPA which is available year round in stores everywhere. Or the highly acclaimed Founders KBS, I’ve seen guys drive across the country simply to taste this jet black bourbon aged stout. It’s a fantastic beer, still I can think of multiple examples of stouts that are just as good if not better (Ten-Fidy, Plead the 5th, Night Fury…), and I’m not even sold that it’s the best stout in Founders lineup. If it wasn’t for the rarity of KBS I would choose Founders Imperial Russian Stout over it every time. I could ramble off examples all day of beers that live up to their hype and beers that don’t, my point is that beer is supposed to be enjoyed, it’s not supposed to be a cause of or source of stress. If you want to be the guy that spends all afternoon sitting in a line to snag a bottle or a snifter of a well crafted rarity more power to you. The rabid fan base and borderline unhealthy obsession with tracking down these brews is a big part of the craft beer culture and that’s not going anywhere. The hunt is on, and it will always live on, as long as breweries make limited release beers there will always be treasure hunters looking to embrace these bundles of joy. Just remember that the rarity doesn’t always mean you’re getting the most beer for your buck.
We are always looking for new contributors. Send me a note to start your journey on the Sommbeer team. email: email@example.com – David
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